Do you really want to know how good Beethoven's Symphony #2 is? In most performances it comes off as either a poor-cousin precursor to the Eroica or as a slightly heavier version of #1. There are very, very few performances which capture the brilliance of this piece, and of those few (Monteux and Maag are the others), Beecham is the best. The symphony is full of verve, fire, humor, lyricism. Where else will you find an andante that actually sings and soars coupled with a finale that will have you dancing in your living-room? Beecham's impeccable attention to detail, his exquisite and unfussy phrasing, his vitality and open-heartedness, all lead to a very natural, brilliant (there's that word again) performance.
The 7th is just as good, but it meets stiffer competition. We have excellent performances in similar veins from Monteux, Karajan (1960's set), Abbado (newest set), Harnoncourt and even Maag (despite the limitations of his small chamber orchestra). Beecham's is blessed with all the same qualities he brought to the 2nd. No-one makes the music dance better, and the finale is perfectly raucous and headlong. You can't go wrong here.
The second disc includes the incidental music to Timon of Athens and the Mass in C major. Both are somewhat lesser works, but they both get the full, buoyant Beecham treatment. Beecham was an excellent opera conductor and he brings his instinctive understanding of drama to these pieces to good effect.
The orchestra and chorus acquit themselves well. The sound is typical EMI late-1950's/early-1960's, which is to say clear and clean but a bit bass-shy. Still, nothing to complain about with performances this good.
If you love Beethoven, this two-fer demands to be in your collection. If you wan to know just how good the 2nd symphony can be, this set will make you fall in love with it. Buy it and enjoy!